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Thursday, February 16, 2006


The Seraph could not touch the fire's coal with his fingers, but just brought it close to Isaiah's mouth: the Seraph did not hold it, Isaiah did not consume it, but us our Lord has allowed to do both.

St Ephraim the Syrian

Monday, February 13, 2006

Okay, more moderns.

He said some good stuff.

I am against the terms 'fantasy' and 'symbolism' in themselves. All our interior world is reality -- and that perhaps more so than in our apparent world. To call everything that appears illogical, "fantasy," fairy tale or chimera -- would be practically to admit not understanding nature. . .

. . .please defend me against people who speak of 'anecdote' and 'fairy tale' in my work. A cow and a woman to me are the same -- in a picture both are merely elements of a composition. In painting, the images of a woman or of a cow have different values of plasticity, -- but not different poetic values. As far as literature goes, I feel myself more "abstract" than Mondrian or Kandinsky in my use of pictorial elements. "Abstract" not in the sense that my painting does not recall reality. Such abstract painting in my opinion is more ornamental and decorative, and always restricted in its range. What I mean by 'abstract' is something which comes to life spontaneously through a gamut of contrasts, plastic at the same time as psychic, and pervades both the picture and the eye with conceptions of new and unfamiliar events. . .

Now Kandinsky! His thoughts about children's art I find especially poignant -- make sure you read to the end:

Here lies the explanation for the marked effect of a child's drawing upon the impartial, the untraditional observer. The practical-purposeful element is foreign to the child since he looks at each thing with unaccustomed eyes and still possesses the unclouded ability to register the thing as such. Only later does he slowly begin to become familiar with the practical-purposeful element through many and often sad experiences. Thus the inner resonance of the object reveals itself of its own accord and without exception in every children's drawing. The adults, especially the teachers, endeavor to force the practical-purposeful element on the child and criticise the child for his drawing, even from the shallow standpoint: "your man cannot walk because he has only one leg," "One cannot sit on your chair, since it is crooked," and so forth. The child laughs at himself, but he ought to cry. . .

. . .the talented child also has, aside from the ability to do away with the external, the power to clothe the remaining internal into a form in which it appears most strongly and effectively (so to say, it "speaks"!) [-- this makes me wonder whether Kandinsky wrote anything about iconography --JH]

. . .for every glowing, there is a cooling off. For every early bud -- the threatening frost. For every young talent -- an academy. These are not tragic words but a sad fact. The academy is the surest means of ruining the above-mentioned force of the child. Even the very great strong talent is more or less held back in this respect by the academy. The weaker talents go to ruin by the hundreds. An academically educated person of average talent distinguishes himself by having learned the practical-purposeful and by having lost the ability to hear the inner resonance. Such a person will deliver a "correct" drawing which is dead.

If a person who has not aquired any artistic schooling-- and is thus free of objective artistic knowledge -- paints something, the result will never be an empty pretense. Here we see an example of the inner force which is influenced only by a general knowledge of the practical-purposeful.

Since, however, the use of even this general knowledge can only be made to a limited extent, the external is also done away with (only less that with the child, but to a great extent) and the inner resonance gains in force: not a dead thing comes into being, but a living one. Christ said: "Suffer the children to come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven."


So Kandinsky reveals to me why I have always been spellbound by children's art, folk art, and drawings by people who 'can't draw' and those by handicapped people. They have this force which I am awed by and which I cannot reproduce because I'm tyrannized, as are most of us, by a long immersion in the 'external'. I'm not just saying this -- I mean that I have actually tried to draw like Ella -- even just a bit like her --and can't. It is literally impossible, at least for now. Awhile ago an aquaintance asked me how Ella's drawing was coming along and I said that she was better than I am, and that I really, truly, envy her ability. Fortunately this friend is also an artist with a healthy respect for the moderns, so he knew what I meant, where most people would not believe me, or would think I was one deluded doting Mama. At the time I only dimly understood my own mind on this; reading Kandinsky (why oh why has it taken so long?) I am realizing more what I have been mentally groping toward. By gum, I think I'm modern!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Picasso! Kandinsky! Compassion!

I bought a book at James Bay Coffee and Books today called Theories of Modern art. Okay, sounds boring, right? WRONG! I am ecstatic! I just pulled it off the shelf to have something to flip through while I drank my got-through-the-Liturgy-without-selling-Heulwen-to-black-marketers reward (coffee -- what else) and it was one of those books you want to walk up to total strangers with and smack them on the head and say "Listen to this! You are going to sit there while I read you excerpts from this and you are going to /like it/, mister!!!"

Then I remembered that that is what my blog is for. . .mwah hah hah hah hah!

Anyway, far from being dry-as-dust theorizing by an individual 'expert', it is chocolate-box of writings from the actual modern art demi-gods -- Picasso, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, etc, -- themselves! And here's the thing that I am so excited about: they write like they paint. It is so fresh and colourful and profound and in your face it just is going to make my brain explode. Now sit still like a good critter and dig some text-only Picasso (Matisse and Kandinsky to follow later):


Do you know when I painted my first guitars I had never had one in my hands? With the first money they gave me I bought one, and after that I never painted another. People think that bullfights in my pictures were copied from life, but they are mistaken. I used to paint them before I'd seen the bullfight so as to make the money to buy my ticket. Have you really done what you planned to do? On leaving your house, do you not often change your route without thinking about it? Do you cease to be yourself on that account? And do you not get there anyhow?And even if you don't, does it matter? The reason is that you didn't have to go in the first place, and you would have been wrong to force destiny.
An idea is a beginning point and no more. If you contemplate it, it becomes something else. What I think about a great deal, I find I have always had complete in my mind. How can you then expect me to continue being interested in it? If I persist, it turns out differently because a different matter intervenes. As far as I am concerned, at any rate, my original idea has no further interest, because while I am realizing it I am thinking about something else.
The important thing is to create. Nothing else matters; creation is all.
Have you ever seen a finished picture? A picture or anything else? Woe unto you the day it is said that you are finished! To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow: the most unfortunate one for the painter as well as for the picture.
The value of a work resides precisely in what it is not.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

the weather

Come on, come on wind and rain
I know the sun will shine again
Till then my lady and my lord will keep me sane. . .

Bruce Cockburn
My Lady and My Lord